posted on Jan, 7 2006 @ 07:47 AM
Most of what I have written here I have posted elsewhere so please forgive me saying it again, only that reply seems to have got lost in the thread
ans wasn't strictly on topic there anyway.
The F-35 certainly has its critics on here and also seems to be lurching from one crisis to another in the real world with questions over its
potential engines, its weight and real time capabilies, just which versions will actually get produced and in what numbers, as well as who for.
The original technological goal, which the UK joined the programme for, of producing the worlds first fighter to encompass stealth, supersonics and
VTOL in a single airframe - 'the ultimate perfect fighter' - now seems almost irrelevant in the light of all this in-fighting and the promise of
great things from much less complicated UCAV designs. As well as this several nations are really question the 'bang for buck' factor and looking at
whether they really need a fighter this complex and expensive.
The situation here in the UK, for instance, is completely up in the air, if you forgive the pun. The RN and RAF both apparently insist that the
desperately want, and will get, the F-35B variant and will operate it from the new carriers that are soon to get under construction.
There are signs however that all is not well here, mention of the Sea Typhoon has resurfaced when this project officially died several years ago,
furthermore the RN has 'leaked' that it is quite impressed by the increased performance that the USN 'C' model will have by comparison with the
STOVL version and it is well known that the new RN carrier has been specifically designed to cope with CTOL aircraft, ostensibly to allow exchange ops
with the USN and Aeronavale. Clearly there seems to be some room for manoevre here that the F-35B lobby could well do without.
What appears to be unmentionable and unthinkable though is the possibility that there will be no new carriers and no new fighters in the RN at all,
sadly the prospects of the RN settling into becoming an all helicopter force have become more likely with the removal of the Sea Harrier from service.
The reforming of 800 and 801 Sqn's with Harrier GR.9's in the spring/summer of 2006 looks like a mere token gesture as they will all be RAF aircraft
I think that it is true that most of the prospective F-35 customer nations are having second thoughts about it, if only privately, due to the cost and
complexity issues surrounding the aircraft. To be fair to the JSF team, this sould not really have come as a surprise as such issues are part and
parcel of any modern combat aircraft. There is a large degree of irony therefore in Norways decision to consider the Typhoon as an alternative!
The strange thing about Norway is that they have already become industrial partners in the Typhoon without actually ordering it yet. I cannot imagine
Norway buying BOTH types, nor can I imagine Eurofighter giving away workshares for nothing, and yet equally I cannot see a Norwegian pullout of the
JSF going down well in the US. This is a situation that really intrigues me and I cannot tell which way it is going to go.
I think the Danish buy of Gripens is extremely significant here. Denmark signed up to the JSF programme in 2002. The Danes also have a very small
defence budget by any standards and their participation in JSF was a surprise in the first place. No they have agreed to buy the Gripen but have said
nothing about their JSF intentions. Does anybody see Denmark buying TWO new types of fighter in this decade? I don't.
The Danes it seems followed the rest of the 'F-16 club' by leaping into the JSF programme. Maybe after lurching from the F-104 (a bad buy all round)
straight into the F-16 en masse 25 years ago made this decision seem logical?
Despite its being around for a a long time it seems that only now is the Gripen being recognized as the truly cost effective F-16 replacement it
really is, as well as its suitability to small European defence budgets. The Danes may well turn out to be only the first European F-16 operator to go
This may also have a little to do with the hassle that buying American seems to bring with it, not content with simply taking the money, the US also
seems to want its customers to be beholden for the privelege of being allowed to spend all these millions on the US product, this is an attitude that
has really grown since the 1980's and leaves a nasty taste among its global best friends of many decades standing.
This appears to be emphasised by a recent study into the fitment of the EJ 200 into the Gripen. Even though it was not followed up into the hardware
stage (at least not yet) it does look like a serious attempt to remove any US control over any part of the Gripen that might affect future sales and
Do I think JSF customers will desert the project en masse? No, not really, but the fact that real alternatives are being seriously looked at must
raise concern in the US and they must realise that further 'will we, wont we' arsing about with the F-35 can only make the situation worse.